Permitless carry gaining ground in Alabama

Earlier today we talked about the somewhat surprising news that Indiana Senate President Rodrick Bray is signaling a path forward for Constitutional Carry after several weeks of inaction (and being blamed for being the big reason why Constitutional Carry didn’t pass last year).

Now there’s signs of progress in another state where Constitutional Carry seemed in danger of stalling out just a few days ago. Lawmakers in both chambers of the Alabama legislature say permitless carry legislation could get floor votes later this week.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said there is a good chance representatives will vote on the bill as early as Tuesday. House Republicans, who hold a lopsided majority in the chamber, have named the legislation as a priority for the year.

The House has been seen as the easier of the two chambers in approving Constitutional Carry, though both state representatives and senators have been hearing from gun control activists and many police chiefs and sheriffs urging them to keep the status quo in place.

Local law enforcement agencies who distribute concealed carry permits stand to lose out on the money permits previously provided.

In addition, safety is a concern, said Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Byron Waid.

“We’ve got a lot of concerns about our schools, we’ve got concerns for mental health, and Tuscaloosa County is most at stake,” Waid said. “And, obviously, we’re concerned for the safety of our officers who are out in the street.”

As mental health concerns grow in Tuscaloosa County, allowing more people to carry  hidden weapons or more easily purchase them means potential danger for the community and the law enforcement officers charged with keeping it safe.

“We know that we have fewer resources now and we certainly need resources for our mental health community,” said Waid.

I’m in 100% agreement with Waid that this country is the midst of a real crisis in terms of our access to mental health treatments, but the answer isn’t to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens. And while I understand the concerns of sheriffs who are at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding that they currently receive through the issuing of concealed carry licenses, the way to address that is for lawmakers at the state and county level to ensure that the general public is paying its fair share towards public safety and not singling out gun owners for an extra tax on their 2A rights.

As for the prospects of Constitutional Carry in the state Senate, while one local television station reported that the bill is on its way to the Senate floor, it looks like based on the legislature’s website that the bill still needs a final vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee before that happens. Still, the bill’s sponsor sounds pretty confident that after nearly ten years of pushing permitless carry, this may be the year the measure makes it to the governor’s desk.

State Sen. Gerald Allen is the bill’s author and said it’s past time Alabamians can protect themselves and their Second Amendment rights without having to pay for the privilege.

“The Second Amendment gives you and I and others the opportunity to carry a weapon to protect ourselves, our families and our business,” Allen said. “And it’s a right given to us from the founding fathers when they wrote the Second Amendment.”

My only criticism of Allen’s comments is that the Second Amendment isn’t a gift given to us by the Founders. It’s a right that predates the Constitution, and one that was recognized, not created, by the drafters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Hopefully it’s a right that will receive more recognition from the Alabama legislature this year through the passage of Constitutional Carry.

I’m feeling pretty good about the prospects for permitless carry legislation in Georgia and Ohio this year, and I’m starting to feel better about the chances in Indiana and Alabama as well. I just wish I could say the same for Florida, where, despite the fact that Republicans control the House, Senate, and the governorship, the odds of Constitutional Carry legislation passing appear to be growing slimmer by the day.